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Characterization of Root Zone Soil Moisture and Herpetofaunal Biodiversity in the Southern Great Plains

Active Dates 9/1/2022-6/30/2024
Program Area Atmospheric System Research
Project Description
Project Objectives

There are two scientific objectives to the proposed research. (1) To develop a proto-type high resolution (<1 km) version of the root-zone

soil moisture product called SoilMERGE or SMERGE. (2) To characterize the biogeography and biodiversity Southern Great Plains

reptiles and amphibians. These two objectives are linked as root zone soil moisture is a critical climate variable that has a more direct

influence on plant growth than precipitation. Therefore, the developed downscaled version of SMERGE can be used as input for

modeling biodiversity. Development of downscaled SMERGE will be facilitated Department of Energy (DOE) resources specifically data

from the DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) facility and modeling platforms such as the Energy Exascale Earth System


Methods to be Employed

To facilitate downscaling of SMERGE, advanced machine learning algorithms will be applied and tested for accuracy. Our proposed

approach incorporates independent variables that are both static (soil texture, elevation, aspect, slope) and dynamic (Normalized

Vegetation Difference Index). Downscaled SMERGE will be validated using several approaches including comparison with in situ soil

moisture data from ARM and model data from Model (E3SM) .

Reptile and amphibian biodiversity will be evaluated by comparison of models results with field collected data available via citizen

science platforms and museum databases. Modeling will be used to construct the potential current distribution of reptile and amphibian


Project Impact

This project will have multiple impacts. It will serve as a catalysis for faculty research at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) in

areas of biological and environment research of interest to DOE. As such, this effort will build a bridge facilitating access for TAMIU

faculty to DOE facilities. In addition, since TAMIU has an 89% Hispanic student body, most of which are both first-generation and

low-income. Therefore, this project will very likely involve Hispanic students and hence broaden participation of underrepresented groups in the STEM fields. Thus, this effort will serve as a pipeline to recruit Hispanic students into STEM careers of interest to the DOE.

Note that Texas A&M International University has not received DOE Biological and Environmental (BER) funding in the last seven years.
Award Recipient(s)
  • Texas A&M International University (PI: Tobin, Kenneth)